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Further research commences into Indigenous engagement in water resources management

May 17, 2018
Author: Kathryn Nicholas


Risk assessment is a fundamental process that underpins natural resources management. Historically, water resource risk assessments have focussed on western concepts of natural resource management: economic production and environmental conservation. However, this western framework fails to engage with Indigenous worldviews that focus on reproduction and interconnected benefit and give effect to Indigenous values and interests.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan requires Basin states to consider Aboriginal cultural values in water resource risk assessment, further highlighting a significant policy gap for the Department for Environment and Water and other jurisdictions with possible implications for the accreditation of South Australia’s water resource plans.

Over the past 15 years, Ngarrindjeri have emerged as a leading Indigenous Nation in relation to Indigenous engagement in water resource management and were awarded the Australian Riverprize in 2015. Recent Ngarrindjeri collaborations with the Goyder Institute for Water Research and Flinders University have supported the emergence of the Ngarrindjeri Yannarumi Assessment process that enables assessments of environmental and water health, based on Ngarrindjeri principles and philosophies.

The Institute, Flinders University, DEW and the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority are partnering in a new project, Translating Ngarrindjeri Yannarumi into Water Resource Risk Assessments. The project will seek to articulate the points of connection between the two processes and inform the necessary adaptations required to DEW’s current water risk assessment conceptual models to integrate Aboriginal cultural values. The outcomes of this project may have application beyond the Murray-Darling Basin and across all aspects of natural resources management, improving the recognition of Aboriginal values and interests.